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With Real Street Fest in Rearview, Independent Promotor SGE Preparing to Shut Down

It didn't take long for John Reese to spring into action Sunday when a fan was hurt at the Real Street Festival in Anaheim, California.

It didn’t take long for John Reese to spring into action Sunday when a fan was hurt at the Real Street Festival in Anaheim, California.

Minutes earlier Big Sean had suddenly stopped his set on the outdoor stage set up in the Honda Center’s parking lot after noticing a fan had been injured and needed help from medics. As the crowd tried to get out of the way, Reese could soon be heard on the microphone, directing fans on how to clear a path for medics to get through.

The fan would ultimately be alright and the tattooed promoter would go back to the business of running Real Street, a first-time festival for both Reese and the Honda Center that got strong reviews from its innovative design and well produced sets. For Reese, the event should have been the icing on the cake for one of his busiest years to date, but as he walked the grounds, he knew his career in the music business was in jeopardy.


Real Street is going to be one of Reese’s last events, for now at least. After racking up a number of big losses in 2019, his company Synergy Global Entertainment (SGE) has effectively shut down and is no longer financially viable. His staff has mostly been picked up by fellow indie promoter Danny Wimmer Presents (DWP) and Reese’s upcoming two-day On the Water festival in Huntington Beach, California, might be canceled. 

Even Real Street was no longer really his event — weeks before the festival, he had to tell his partners at the Honda Center and iHeartRadio that he could no longer financially back the event and ultimately withdrew as a partner, although he still played a role in helping produce the event.

Its unclear what the future holds, but with his website disabled and no employees on staff, Reese is out of the picture indefinitely. From his Back to the Beach festival in Orange County to Gnarly Town in nearby San Pedro, Reese was one of the region’s few indie promoters left and staged professional and fun events with punk bands, hip hop, hardcore and even some country acts. He knew how to get brands — especially beers, spirits and energy drink companies — to support his business model and help underwrite events headlined by groups like NOFX, Rancid, Blink-182 and even A$AP Rocky, who’s first concert since being released by Swedish authorities was Sunday at Real Street. 

He also took his lumps and in 2019, he had a number of events fail. The 25-date Disrupt Festival Tour, a summer amphitheater run headlined by The Used, Thrice, Circa Survive, Sum 41 and more did not perform well and in July Reese had to cancel the Mad Decent Block Party Festival, headlined by Billie Eilish, G-Eazy, Major Lazer and Miguel at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

“Unfortunately putting this event on in the way it was envisioned has become impossible, due to circumstances beyond our control. All parties involved have agreed that moving forward would be a disservice to fans and artists alike, and cancellation is in everyone’s best interest,” a statement read at the time.


While Reese didn’t comment for this story, he did acknowledge to Billboard that his company was “reorganizing its operations and assessing strategic options.”

Joining the DWP team are SGE’s former GM Heather Vantress who will serve as the company’s senior vp festival management, Maureen Valker- Barlow as senior vp brand alliance, Brian Harrah as vp marketing, Ray Picard as director of production, Nathan Armstrong as director of operations, Tiffany Hauger as sponsorship account manager, Emily Williams as sponsorship manager, Emily Fleniken as sponsorship administrator, Sam Simmons as festival draftsman and Nader Vaziri as graphic designer. Six other former SGE employees will join on as contractors and consultants.

“John and I worked closely to effectuate the transition and while Danny Wimmer Presents is happy to pick up these amazing people, we really empathize with what John is going through and wish him the best,” DWP chief executive Danny Hayes tells Billboard

Ohana Fest in Dana Point, California, which Reese also produces with Live Nation, won’t be affected by SGE’s closure.

Festivals 2019